“Sometimes a poor performance…”

“Sometimes a poor performance is better for enjoyment, because you can look at
those things that were wrong and analyse them.”

Werner Heisenberg

Key performance indicators, now there’s a thrilling topic for some light Friday evening reading. Whilst far from those in industrial or commercial settings, schools have their own brand of performance indicators which can be used to measure progress and development. Whether they would stand up to rigid or methodical scrutiny is a moot point but if nothing else they can be a decent place to start thinking about what is going well and what could be better.

I’m writing this column while in the Auvergne accompanying the Year 5 field class. Our focus is the fascinating volcanic landscape of this region. The pupils’ knowledge of volcanoes in general and their ability to identify the different types of volcanoes they see in this fascinating landscape is impressive, still more laudable their enthusiasm for collecting and identifying the different types of volcanic rock. I’m not entirely sure how you would record levels of practical or intellectual curiosity, but I can assure you that they were high today. Similarly, the issue of grit … I’m not talking about rocks again, but rather determination and stickability. Over the last couple of days, I’ve watched the pupils deal with an orienteering course that was far from easy to complete which they did despite being frustrated at times by not immediately locating the controls. Today I have been impressed with their willingness to walk to the top of an extinct volcano and back down with the minimum of fuss. I’ve witnessed them experiencing communal living, having to compromise over keeping the light on or off at night, dealing with other people’s quirks and habits which they have done with mostly good humour. Their adaptability has been challenged, no screens for a few days, so lots of playing card games and other board games which they have taken up with gusto. They have had to think about the community, they’ve done basic clearing up tasks, cleaning tasks and had to be self-reliant enough to find a way to pack their own bag. They’ve learnt much more than simply the difference between volcano types.

Among all this endeavour, I’ve seen small acts of empathy. The kind word when someone is homesick, the rucksack carried when an ankle is sore. If we are really measuring the success of a school perhaps it is these qualities, qualities of basic human decency and kindness that should be the stuff of performance analysis.

On the basis of this particular year group, in this situation I’d say that things are going well, which is more than can be said for my performance as a Tik Tok dance pupil while waiting to visit the gift shop this afternoon. The teaching was excellent, the execution woeful. My tutors were encouraging but knew when they had a recalcitrant pupil to deal with. All this and we’ve one more day to go.

Well done Year 5, you’ve done us all proud. A performance we can all be proud to mark.

Nicholas Hammond